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Ideas, advice, and what to make now from the Chowhound community and CHOW editors.

Juniper Flavors More Than Gin

Juniper berries are a key flavor component of gin, but they are also great in recipes, like CHOW's Poached Fig, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Tart.

Juniper berries are common in sauerbraten; rainey thinks Alton Brown's recipe is excellent, and says it makes enough marinade for two roasts.

cocktailhour grinds juniper berries with rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and orange zest and uses the combo as a rub for duck. vincentinparisandrome finds that a mixture of wine, stock, and juniper berries makes a nice sauce for duck or pork.

caiatransplant poaches fish in dry white wine with crushed garlic, whole peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a small handful of whole juniper berries. "The fish comes out wonderfully every time," she says. mickeygee likes this salmon with martini sauce, which incorporates both juniper berries and the ingredients of the cocktail.

Juniper berries are also terrific braised with red or green cabbage or sauerkraut, and in choucroute garnie, the classic French dish of pork cooked in sauerkraut, say hounds. They work well with lamb too, and are a classic pairing with venison. Oh, and look for Scandinavian recipes, recommends eight_inch_pestle, who says, "Scandinavian food is lousy with juniper berries."

Discuss: What can I do with this bag of Juniper Berries, besides garnishing G&T's?

Using Up Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil are a flavor-filled addition to all kinds of dishes. They're a staple in thursday's kitchen for jazzing up quick dinners: "If what we're making seems a little boring," she says, "we throw in some sun-dried tomatoes and voila! A little sharpness, a little sweetness, a little color."

Many hounds use them with pasta. The simplest treatments: Sauté garlic in olive oil and add the sliced tomatoes and chopped parsley, or add them to your favorite pasta sauce. bear makes a more complex dish with Italian sausage, mushrooms, kale, and sun-dried tomatoes with farfalle or penne. The oil they're packed in is great for arrabbiata sauce, says mbfant, so don't toss it.

cookie44 loves braised chicken in sun-dried tomato cream, and lexpatti makes a goat cheese, pesto, and sun-dried tomato spread.

More ideas for sun-dried tomatoes:

• Purée with goat cheese and use to top crostini.
• Add to omelets, frittatas, and scrambled eggs.
• Mix into a compound butter with herbs and citrus zest.
• Add to sandwiches in place of fresh tomatoes.

Discuss: need ideas for using sundried tomatoes in oil

The Million-Dollar Chicken Recipe

Chowhounds are high on a simple Moroccan-style chicken recipe with cumin, cinnamon, dried currants, and prepared salsa that won the million-dollar prize in the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

"I've been making this since it was first published," says cinnamon girl. "I'm embarrassed to say I made it mainly [because] I was indignant that a recipe with a jar of salsa poured over some chicken pieces would win a $1M prize! But the sum of the parts proved to be greater than the individual ingredients." She prefers it made with bone-in thighs, rather than the boneless called for. "Before I put in the liquids," she adds, "I push the chicken to the edges of the pan, put the garlic in the middle and lightly cook, then put in the spices and stir them a bit being careful not [to] burn. It just adds something."

"This is unbelievably good," raves coll, who substituted beer for the water to good effect.

"It's amazing how the salsa cooks down and changes—there are no 'Mexican' notes to this dish like I feared," says Snorkelvik.

Discuss: Million Dollar Moroccan Chicken, Thanks Free Sample Addict aka Tracy L

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"[S]tale pita bread makes the best tasting bread crumbs! Something about pita bread crumbs makes the food they are cooked with extra special. Nice texture, and good flavor." - smtucker

"I use mine when brewing iced tea or for punch type things like sangria or homemade margarita mix. I keep extras in the freezer." - just_M on mango pits and the fruit left clinging to them

"I never have a problem EVER if I crack them as I'm running them under cold water, once cracked they can sit in the cold bath until I'm ready for them. If I don't crack them, even if sitting in a cold bath—they are miserable to peel." - lexpatti on peeling hard-boiled eggs

Frozen Corn Satisfies Winter Cravings

While freshly picked summer corn can't be beat, you can make dishes with great corn flavor using frozen corn kernels during months when it isn't in season.

cheesecake17 says roasting corn kernels "really changes the corn and adds a nice sweetness." She spreads the kernels in a single layer on a baking sheet and pats them dry with a paper towel. Use the roasted corn in salsa or salad. alkapal likes roasted corn with diced red bell pepper, black-eyed peas, lime juice, and cilantro.

Corn marries well with shellfish in corn and crab bisque and crisp chipotle shrimp with corn and scallions, which is "really great," says Val. "The colors in this dish are amazing too," she adds.

For a side dish, try spicy Indian corn with mustard seeds, or Mexican-style corn with crème fraîche, lime, and chile, suggest hounds.

AndrewK512 suggests a delicious pasta sauce made by puréeing the corn and lightly pressing it through a sieve until you have corn milk; bring to a simmer, emulsify with butter, add whole corn kernels and chives. Gild the lily with truffle oil if you wish.

Discuss: what to do with all this corn?

Tzatziki Doesn’t Have to Be Watery

Tzatziki, the Greek yogurt and cucumber spread, is too often watery and bitter, rather than creamy and flavorful. Here's how to make it right.

Start with thick Greek yogurt, or strain the whey from a natural, full-fat yogurt by putting the yogurt in a dampened paper coffee filter or cheesecloth set in a sieve for several hours, until the yogurt is thick.

Wring the grated cucumber in a towel to get rid of excess moisture; some hounds salt the cucumber to draw out moisture before wringing it out. If you are using standard American cucumbers, remove the seeds, advises danieljdwyer.

Add minced or crushed garlic and salt to taste, but keep in mind the garlic will get more pungent over time, says chowser. yamalam marinates the garlic in the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon or two of white wine vinegar for 10 minutes to soften its bite. Some finish with a bit of olive oil, and add fresh dill or mint.

kattyeyes loves this recipe. "Try it with a lamburger," she suggests. "Mmmmmm!"

Discuss: Anyone have a good recipe for tzatziki?

Hearty Meatless Split Pea Soup

While many split pea soup recipes include smoked ham hocks for flavor, it's easy to make a vegetarian version that's just as satisfying.

Most hounds use a pretty standard base: green or yellow split peas, chopped onions, carrots, and celery, and water or vegetable broth, plus salt and pepper. Some use garlic, and herbs such as bay leaves or thyme for seasoning.

And then there's the special ingredients to deepen the soup's flavor. dmd_kc adds a spoonful of prepared mustard. "The mustard wakes up the earthiness of the split peas," he says, "and doesn't end up reading as mustardy." bear uses soy sauce at the end of cooking. If you want a bit of smoky flavor without meat, try adding smoked paprika, bacon salt, or a bit of liquid smoke.

odkaty thinks the split pea soup recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is fabulous; it includes marjoram, paprika, bay leaves, thyme, and soy sauce. CindyJ's go-to recipe has parsnips, which add a nice sweetness, she says.

Discuss: Vegetarian split pea soup?

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"I keep all my schmaltz (fat) from chicken, roasts, hamburger, even gravy fat, and cook roast potatoes in it from time to time, then I keep that fat too and reuse. Haven't killed anybody yet!" - smartie

"I use Trader Joe's wasabi mayo to coat fish before baking on a rack in a pan. Season with S&P, allow to sit at room temp. for about an hour, then coat and bake @350° for 20-25 minutes. Pork chops and lamb chops are also good this way, with longer cooking times." - Will Owen

"It's wonderful with sour cream—better than mayonnaise, in fact. Just on its own, that's a nice dip for vegetables. Crumble some bacon and squeeze lemon into it for a better version of that nasty fake glop in the plastic tubs. This is magnificent on baked potatoes, too." - dmd_kc, on prepared horseradish

How to Cook Pasta Without Boiling Water

Does pasta really need to be cooked in boiling water? While the conventional wisdom says yes, some hounds contend that it makes sense to cook pasta in a more flavorful liquid, such as stock or even the sauce you plan to serve with the pasta. "By cooking in sauce or stock," says bushwickgirl, "you're enhancing the flavor of a rather bland product."

Many hounds use regular dried noodles in lasagne without pre-cooking, and find it works fine as long as they add a bit more sauce than usual. Cooking pasta in sauce on the stovetop takes a bit more finesse in order to ensure it cooks evenly and the sauce doesn't stick. You'll need to dilute your sauce a bit so it doesn't get too thick as the pasta absorbs liquid, and you must stir often. The method works best with short and small pasta shapes, according to bushwickgirl. cinnamon girl has made skillet lasagne this way with good results.

Another approach is to cook pasta as you would risotto, gradually adding small amounts of liquid and allowing the pasta to absorb it, as in this absorption pasta and Alain Ducasse's olive mill pasta. "You can do it equally well with a tomato-based sauce" as with stock, says rainey. "It's a unique method and works quite well."

Discuss: Why cook pasta in water and not the sauce?

The Smooth Indulgence of Chicken Liver

Chicken liver pâté is a rich, elegant appetizer that's perfect for a cocktail party or celebration meal.

This recipe from BLT Steak restaurant, in which the livers are cooked in duck fat and combined with a port reduction, is "truly decadent," says goodhealthgourmet. Emeril Lagasse's version is "relatively simple and very good," thinks caiatransplant. She suggests adding jarred truffles for an extra touch of luxe.

bizkat recommends Jacques Pépin's recipe, but uses only one stick of butter, which he thinks gives a liver-to-butter ratio that's "just right." nomadchowwoman likes this bourbon chicken liver pâté; she doubles the allspice and adds a bit more salt.

Most pâté recipes call for sautéing the livers before combining them with the other ingredients, but aggiecat prefers to poach them gently in dry white wine, to avoid overcooking. nomadchowwoman notes that, while most pâtés will only last a few days in the fridge, they can be frozen and later thawed with excellent results.

Discuss: favorite chicken liver pate recipes?